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Oskar Ortiz
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 - 08:50 pm:   

Everyone talks about the death of the short story, I just don't get it at all. You would think that people would want to commit to something, well, shorter. Perhaps it is personal preference but I pick up an anthology (Flights edited by Al Sarrantonio was excellent) and it feels like a much better fit with our fast-paced life.

Anyone care to offer any thoughts?
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Sean Melican
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 05:33 am:   

I've heard that, when asked, readers (a small percent of the population anyway) generally would prefer to escape the fast-paced, hectic world; thus they prefer long novels, even monstrous multi-book series.

The death of the short story, however, has been greatly exaggerated.
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Oskar Ortiz
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 06:29 am:   

Well thank the gods and amens to that! Curious that people would think that way. I love great epics (Song of Ice and Fire) but the lugging is murder. The worst is when you finish three-quarters of the book and you still have to lug it around.

One thing that may contribute is that I find that the short story, because of its conciseness, just needs more thought. I have found, and this is all personal opinion, that when you read one of those massive tome-series you have to think less. The book thinks for you. I read short fiction and I have to fill in the blanks alot more than I do with scrolls.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:00 am:   

Ben Bova told me back in the mid-70s that the mainstream short story "died" in the 1950s. All of the big slick magazines selling hundreds of thousands, or even millions of copies, that ran short fiction as part of their content went under, and so did the "mainstream" short story.

We've always seen mainstream short fiction in the little university quarterlies, and small publications like them, but they don't pay very much (if anything) and their circulations are quite low. Venues like The New Yorker still continue to run some fiction, but that's only a story or two per issue, and number-wise is miniscule compared to what SF/F produces every year in the magazines and original collections. It's less than a drop in the bucket.

SF/F, on the other hand, is the largest selling venue for short stories (of ANY kind) in America. I've read close to 2 million words of short SF/F this year in SF/F collections and anthologies, and this isn't counting all of the SF/F magazines I've read.

So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F.
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LGF
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 02:20 pm:   

>>So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F.

That's exactly it. When people outside of SF/F talk about the death of the short story, they're not counting "that silly genre fiction" (direct quote from an acquaintance).
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Sean Melican
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 02:40 pm:   

We've always seen mainstream short fiction in the little university quarterlies, and small publications like them, but they don't pay very much (if anything)...

Just to blow a wide-open hole in this continually incorrect assertion: a quick search on Duotrope shows 72 'mainstream' venues paying in the professional range. Under science fiction or fantasy (you can't search both), there's about thirty, and that's with a fair amount of overlap.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 02:50 pm:   

I should add that there are hundreds of 'little' venues for science fiction and fantasy, whether you count minimal pay or low circulation as 'little.' Also, there is only a weak correlation between pay or circulation and quality.

(It would be impossible to numerical prove this last as quality is not quantifiable; but 'little' magazines and small print-run anthologies frequently make one or another of the best-of anthologies. That stories from said magazines and anthologies rarely make any sort of award short-list is indicative of the number of readers who are also voters.)
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 02:59 pm:   

Yeah, I have to wonder if ignorance pays.

The New Yorker has over a million subscribers.

It's published 47 times a year.

I'd say it has more subscribers/purchasers than all the SF/F magazines and short story anthologies combined.

Having said that book purchases and circulations are down across the board with very few exceptions.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 05:38 pm:   

I've been hearing for years that The New Yorker has been hemorrhaging money for many years.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 05:47 pm:   

They have inexpensive subscriptions and of course probably lose buckets of money on their newsstand sales. It's just a $1 an issue to subscribe.

I say that because one usually returns one or more copies per sale. If I remember the number correctly their newsstands sales were around 60k.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 06:05 pm:   

Sean: "a quick search on Duotrope shows 72 'mainstream' venues paying in the professional range."

72 out of how many, Sean. 72 out of 100? 72 out of 1,000? 72 out of 2,000? Not arguing, just asking.

Perhaps I should have inserted a "many" in the sentence "but 'most' don't pay very much."

The observation that mainstream (non-genre) died a long time ago must be placed in context of what it _once_ was. For all practical purposes from what it once was (it's heyday in the 40s and/or 50s), if not dead, then it's shriveled beyond all recognition. I believe this is the context Bova had in mind.

And please keep in mind that we're talking fiction magazines, not a magazine that happens to print a story here and there (i.e. The New Yorker). The same thing can be said of _OMNI_; it wasn't a science fiction magazine, but a magazine that also happened to print one or two stories each issue.

Doesn't matter how you slice it, the SF/F genre (magazines and new collections) publishes more short fiction per year than any genre or non-genre form--combined. It is in this sense that some can claim that the mainstream story is "dead." Still published in little quarterlies and a very few other places, but that's about it.

If you still believe otherwise, you might consider taking it up with Bova or Budrys or Panshin to find what they have to say about it. They've studied this for far longer than any of us have, and I respect their opinions.

All bests,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 06:35 pm:   

Don't know where you pull this nonsense.

The New Yorker publishes fiction each issue, 47 times a year.

A Duotrope search for short story science fiction at pro rates yields 27. 27 is less than 72.

"Doesn't matter how you slice it, the SF/F genre (magazines and new collections) publishes more short fiction per year than any genre or non-genre form--combined."

Try telling that to the Norton Anthology series.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 07:41 pm:   

PM: I don't see how your mention of the Norton Anthology changes the fact that sf/f magazines publish more fiction than mainstream magazines.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 07:45 pm:   

There are around 600 active literary magazines.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 08:31 pm:   

Dave,

No doubt the number of markets for short fiction has shriveled since the fifties. The number of markets for SF has shriveled too. There were dozens of American SF magazines in the fifties; now there are four (plus a couple of online venues, plus a bunch of "semiprozines" that are the rough equivalent of literary quarterlies, except for the literary part).

The New Yorker alone will publish fifty-plus stories this year, since a couple of the double issues are always special fiction issues. F&SF, which has run an unusually large number of novellas in '07, should top out around sixty.

You have a story a month in Harper's, several in the Atlantic summer fiction issue, plus the odd piece in high-paying venues like Esquire, Playboy, MS. and Redbook. That's before you get to Tin House, McSweeney's, Granta, Zoetrope, Rosebud, and Glimmer Train. And all those are before you get to the literary journals and university quarterlies such as the Missouri Review, Georgia Review, Paris Review, Threepenny Review, VLQ, Salamagundi, TriQuarterly, Conjunctions, Ploughshares, etc.

What is your point again?
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 08:46 pm:   

PM: I plead ignorance--what Norton anthology are you referring to and when was it last updated? The only ones I'm familiar with are those I studied in college and the sf one published several years ago.
I think I'd trust any mainstream year's best more than a Norton anthology for current markets. I don't have any to hand so I can't check.

I counted 73 sf/f/h/m magazines that I covered in 2006. I'd say that's probably some short (and not counting the online magazines).
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 08:47 pm:   

Granta has a circulation of around 80k which is more than the circulation of all the SF/F magazines combined.

To me though this is all pointless. Obviously, folk have their reading preferences. I can't go along with writing off literary fiction as worthy of reading but that's a choice that each is left to make.

I'll leave the Either/Or to Soren...:-)
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S. Hamm
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:25 pm:   

Ellen,

The Best American Short Stories series covers almost 250 markets, including a handful of genre magazines (Asimov's, F&SF, Lady Churchill's, and AHMM -- but not Analog, Realms of Fantasy, or EQMM). Dave's assertion that "the SF/F genre (magazines and new collections) publishes more short fiction per year than any genre or non-genre form--combined" is patently indefensible.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 09:55 pm:   

Sam,
Thanks. But I do think though that there a lot more original genre anthologies published per year than mainstream anthologies which would certainly up the number of original genre fiction being published--I just counted from 2006--again, I covered about 75 mostly original anthologies of sf/f/h/m.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 10:07 pm:   

Ellen, did you throw in mysteries there?

Where are westerns and romance to be tossed?

And I have to wonder about the 75 original anthologies. Nearly all the anthos I'm familiar with have stories that have appeared elsewhere...
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 10:19 pm:   

PM, If you don't believe me I can list them.
DAW alone publishes 12 a year (one monthly).

There are lots of small presses that publish original horror anthologies.

I threw in only the mystery anthologies I read--there are others that didn't look dark enough for me to cover so I didn't ask for them.

There are very few original western anthos. I did throw in the paranormal romance anthologies I saw...I don't believe there are that many original romance anthologies.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 10:29 pm:   

I don't want to put you through a hassle typing up a bunch of titles.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 10:35 pm:   

They're all in my files as I keep a log for YBFH. There are more than 75 below because when I counted I knocked out the reprint ones (Year's bests) and those that were published as mainstream (Conjunctions, for example--even though I sometimes find genre fiction in there):

Masques ed. J.N. Williamson Gauntlet read
Jigsaw Nation ed. Edward J. McFadden & E. Sedia Spyre Eugene has-read 2 recs
Evermore ed. James Robert Smith & Stephen Mark Rainey Arkham House read
Extended Play ed. Gary Couzins Elastic read
Eulogies: Horror World 2005 ed. Nanci Kalanta Nyx read
Project Contagion ed. Dustin La Valley & N.G. Sullivan Lulu.com read
Shrouded by Darkness ed. Alison L. R. Davies Telos read
Shadow Regions ed. César Puch Surreal Books read
Thriller ed. James Patterson Mira read
Tiny Terrors no editor Hadesgate read
DeathGrip ed. Walt Hicks Hellbound Books read
The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B ed. Jeremy Akerman & Eileen Daly Serpent’s Tale read
Ghosts in Baker Street ed Greenberg & J Lellenberg & Daniel Stashower C&G read
Chimeraworld #4 ed. Mike Philbin Chimericana read
Chimeraworld #3 ed. Mike Philbin Chimericana read
Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 2 ed. Dean Alfar Kestrel read (return to Gavin
Jabberwocky ed. Sean Wallace read
Fear Of. 4- R Chizmar, Brian Freeman, B Keene, & Monteleone Borderlands Press read
Gods and Monsters ed. Jason Andrews and Michael Dyer (simianpub) read
Cock:Adventures in Masculinity ed. A Macrae & Keith Stevenson couer de lion read
Arkham Tales ed. William Jones Chaosium read
Book of Shadows ed.Angles Challis Brimstone Press read
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror ed.Angela Challis& S.CummingsBrimstone Press read
Northwest Horrors ed. Jonathan Reitan & James R. Beach NWHP read
My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding ed. P. N. Elrod St Martin’s Press read
From the Trenches ed. JP Haines & Samantha Henderson Carnifex Press read
In the Dark` ed. Myna Wallin & Halli Villegas Tightrope Books read
Ten Plagues ed. Ian Donnell Arbuckle & Justin Conwell Saltboy read
Tesseracts ten ed Robert Charles Wilson & Edo van Belkom Edge read
The British Fantasy Society ed. Paul Kane &Marie O’Regan British Fan. Soc read
The Bizarro Starter Kit Bizarro Book read
Conjunctions 25th anniversary ed. Bradford Morrow Bard K&G read
Hell’s Hangmen ed. Ron Shiflet lulu read
Dark Arts ed. John Pelan Cemetery Dance read
When Graveyards Yawn ed. Sean Wright Crowswing Books read
Lords of the Razor ed Bill Sheehan and William Schafer Subterranean read
Retro Pulp Tales ed. Joe R. Lansdale Subterranean read
Agog! Ripping Reads ed. Cat Sparks agog! Press read
Night Visions 12 Ed by Kealan Patrick Burke Subterranean galleys read
Poe’s Lighthouse ed Christopher Conlon CD read
Polyphony 6 ed. D Layne & J. Lake Wheatland Press read-no horror
Hardboiled Cthulhu ed. James Ambuehl, Elder Signs Press read
Rabid Transit ed. Barzak, et al Velocity Press read-no horror
Florida Horror ed. Armand Rosamilia Carnifex Press read
Furry Fantastic ed. Jean Rabe & Brian Thomsen DAW Eugene read
Read by Dawn ed. Ramsey Campbell Bloody Books read
Candy in the Dumpster ed. Bill Breedlove Dark Arts Books read
Mondo Zombie ed. John Skipp CD read
DC Noir ed George Pelecanos Akashic Eugene read
Manhattan Noir ed. Lawrence Block Akashic Eugene has nothing
Dublin Noir ed Ken Bruen Akashic Eugene read
Forbidden Planets ed. Peter Crowther DAW Eugene read no horror
Garden of the Perverse ed. S. Vivant &M. ChristianThunder’s Mouth Eugene read
Thou Shalt Not ed Lee Allen Howard Dark Cloud Press read
London Noir ed by Cathi Unsworth Serpent’s Tail Eugene has read -nothing
Twin Cities Noir ed. Julie Schaper & Steve Horwitz Akashic Eugene read
Baltimore Noir Edited by Laura Lippman Akashic Eugene has-nothing
In Delirium ed. Brian Keene Delirium Press read
Damned Nation ed. Robert N. Lee & David T. Wilbanks Hellbound Books read
Writers of the Future XXII ed. Budrys Galaxy read
Eidolon 1 ed. Strahan and Byrne Prime read
High Ferocity 2006-2007 Convention Sampler read
Future Shocks ed. Lou Anders Roc WS read
Twenty Epics ed. Moles & Groppi All Star Stories Eugene read
Badass Horror ed. Michael Stone and Chris J. Hall Dybbuk Press read
Paraspheres ed. none OMNIDAWN Gavin read
Slipstreams ed. Greenberg and Helfers DAW WS read
Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad girls ed. Denise Little DAW Eugene read
The Outcast ed. Nicole R. Murphy CSFG read
Dark Doorways ed. James Cooper Prufrock Press read
Children of Magic ed. Greenberg and Hughes DAW read
The Magic Toybox ed. Denise Little DAW Eugene read
Shivers IV ed. Richard Chizmar CD read
Alone on the Darkside ed. John Pelan Roc read
The Best American Short Stories 2006 ed Ann Patchett Houghton Mifflin read
Aegri Somnia ed. Jason Sizemore Apex Publications read
Cross Plains Universe ed. Scott Cupp & Joe Lansdale Monkeybrain/FACTS read
Choices ed. Christopher Teague Pendragon Press read
The Best of Not One of Us ed. John Benson Prime read
Dead Cat’s Traveling Circus ed. Gerard Houarner and GAK Bedlam Press read
Miami Noir ed. Les Sandiford Akashic
Feeling Very Strange ed. James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel Tachyon read
Nebula Awards Showcase 2006 ed. Gardner Dozois Roc read
Best New Horror ed. Stephen Jones Robinson read
HP. Lovecraft’s Book of the Supernatural ed. Stephen JonesPegasus Books galleys read
Horror: The Best of the Year ed. Betancourt & Wallace Prime
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Brendan Connell
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 10:58 pm:   

There are plenty of places that publish short stories. The difference between now and then is that fewer pay real money. But the short story is anything but dead.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 11:30 pm:   

Went over to Barnes & Noble and did a search for short story fiction anthologies for 2007.

243 titles. Granted this includes all the genre books. And I'm not so crazy to go through every one of them and winnow them out.

It also includes quite a few sex anthologies.

At any rate I took a cursory look through it and the fiction anthos are there in force.

So I can't go along with the suggestion that they are massively outnumbered. I can go along with the suggestion that the race is closer with anthologies than it is with magazines.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 11:55 pm:   

"PM: I plead ignorance--what Norton anthology are you referring to and when was it last updated?"

Sorry. Just noticed this post.

I mentioned the Norton Anthology series to rebut the suggestion that was part of the genre anthologies/magazines outsell fiction anthologies/magazines.

Everyone who goes to college has a pretty good chance of buying at least one. And if you're an English major you could end up with several.

Here's a link to the series:

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/
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des lewis
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 01:44 am:   

I think that added to any list should be 'Nemonymous' that has been a paying market for 100 original short stories since 2001.

If the short story is deemed to be dead, then we are all dead.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 05:19 am:   

All of which is to say:

(a) Dave is, of course, wrong and ignorant of the facts; and when the data disproves him, he changes the focus.

(b) The short story is not dead, either in science fiction, fantasy, horror, mainstream, literary, etc. Nor is it hanging by a thread, or with one foot in the grave.

(c) Ellen and all the other editors of the best-of anthologies should be commended for the thorough and outstanding job they do.

Also, speaking of, I'd heard rumors somewhere that Guccione was going to revive OMNI. Any truth to this?
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Mark Lord
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 05:24 am:   

Getting back to Oskar's original question, I think it would be good to see more fast-paced short fiction published by the SF magazines - a lot of the work published tends to be at the long short story or novella length - which actaully can take a bit of time to work. Is there not much of a paying market for SF flash fiction.

Also to take a non-US perspective for a change in the mainstream vs genre debate (which I'm getting a bit bored reading about to be honest, but will exacerbate anyway!), in the UK the biggest short-story market by far is women's weekly magazines - e.g. Take a Break and People's Friend. These print a number of short stories/issue - often the one page variety. These have a mass-market mainstream appeal and the circulation of these magazines is in the 100,000s I would think. So these type of "non-literary" stories are definitely still commercial over here. Do you have anything similar in the US?

I think the commercial, "pulp" side of SF and F publishing has moved away from the magazines, for a number of historical reasons and has had a resurgence in the last twenty years with the mass-market book series.

To add another question to this debate - are there writers out there who start writing SF&F short stories with the intention of just writing short fiction? If so are they thinking "right, I am going to right for the love of it, not to make a fortune, or even a living?"

Or do most start with the hope of graduating to the novel length and potential money?
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Radu Eugen Romaniuc
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 05:42 am:   

QUOTE :
To add another question to this debate - are there writers out there who start writing SF&F short stories with the intention of just writing short fiction? If so are they thinking "right, I am going to right for the love of it, not to make a fortune, or even a living?"

I write (not only F&SF) with this in mind.
It's more of a principle to me, because back when I was a student and I was attending lots of film festivals I was upset by the way young screenwriters/moviemakers were looking at their shorts, as a first chapter/condensed form of their future "real" movie. So I argued alot that when you decide to make a short film that happens because that particular story can not be told in another way. A short form is a neccesity, I was telling them, or so it should be. I have no idea if I was right or young and just wanting to be different but somehow that principle stuck with me.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:02 am:   

To add another question to this debate - are there writers out there who start writing SF&F short stories with the intention of just writing short fiction? If so are they thinking "right, I am going to right for the love of it, not to make a fortune, or even a living?"

Or do most start with the hope of graduating to the novel length and potential money?


Answer: both.

Is there not much of a paying market for SF flash fiction.

Answer: There is, but flash fiction is amazingly difficult to write. If 90% of SF is crap (including slush), then 99+% of flash is crap. Not only is flash remarkably hard to write, but to construct an SFnal world on top of building character, plot, etc. is, well, almost impossible.
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Mark Lord
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:34 am:   

So are short stories as they currently are more suited to our fast paced lives than novels?

Or would flash fiction be better suited. When Oskar said fast paced I think of my own current situation where I'm getting home from work and helping my wife look after our baby son - time for reading is certainly at a premium, but for some reason I don't find that reading a short story necessarily fits. I think it's because to actually get into a short story you need to pretty much read the whole thing at one sitting. I may be a bit of a slow reader, but this often takes me more than half an hour and often longer with some of the stories around.

So in fact I actually find it better to read a few pages from a novel at a time as the pacing is more relaxed and I'm less likely to miss something when stop/starting.

I would like to find a good source of quality flash fiction, but as Sean says there seems to be a lack of quality in that format. But maybe that's because it doesn't seem very popular with the main SF magazines?
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 09:26 am:   

PM: Are those the titles in print or published in 2007? Big difference. Are those original anthologies or reprint anthologies? Big difference. (as you yourself pointed out) You can't tell from the titles. I can because I actually READ or skimmed them all.And since you didn't winnow the genre anthos out (as I DID) you really have no idea. In any case, so far this year, I've received about 40 so far. (genre anthos with mostly if not all original stories).

Sean: If it happens it will be Bob Jr publishing it. Bob Jr owns Discover so it's not such a longshot if he can acquire OMNI from his father.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 09:29 am:   

Published.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:16 am:   

Sean: "(a) Dave is, of course, wrong and ignorant of the facts; and when the data disproves him, he changes the focus."

Why must you always assume the worst in people, Sean? You cast aspersions on my motives assuming I'm automatically up to no good. I didn't change the focus at all, if you read carefully what I said. Sheesh.

I don't see where the data proves I'm wrong, Sean. And I certainly didn't change my focus because of this. We may be arguing semantics, I think. I was careful to point out that Bova's claim had to be placed in _context_, which is an important point. I've never claimed that there isn't non-genre/mainstream fiction being published, only that there is more new short SF/F stories being published--in magazines and collections--than new mainstream. Also, many of the venues for mainstream (and I'm speaking to fiction magazines, not magazines that happen to run a story or two) have circulations in the hundreds. How many of them pay in contributor copies? I don't know. But if you want to count them, okay. (shrug) This is, I think, the context Bova had in mind when he said that for all intents and purposes the mainstream story was dead; i.e. that it was relegated to the small university quarterlies, some with very small circulations; a far cry from its heyday. Context.

Sean: "(b) The short story is not dead, either in science fiction, fantasy, horror, mainstream, literary, etc. Nor is it hanging by a thread, or with one foot in the grave."

Again, and about the mainstream short story: it must be placed in context of what Bova and others meant when they made this claim. I defer to the critics and historians who have made this claim (Budrys and others, for example). The short story is more alive in SF/F than anywhere else. How many all new mystery collections appear every year? How many all new romance collections appear every year? How many all new western collections appear every year? How many all new mainstream collections appear every year (not magazines, but books)? By far, SF/F/H leads the pack.

Magazines are another element to the equation. Genre magazines far outnumber "mainstream" magazines.

University quarterlies are another element to the equation. They far outnumber genre in this respect. But do the number of stories they publish each issue and then as a yearly total make up for their lack (in number of stories) published in SF/F/H as an overall total? That's the question. I think not. You think it is so, I presume.

To prove the point one way or the other, we'd have to somewhow know the word count for everything published in the SF/F/H field (magazines and collections) and that for non-genre/mainstream publications for this year. It would be a monumental task, and might give someone something to do if they were so inclined. :-)

I've barely scratched the surface of this year's SF/F all new collections (I've only read 12), but the word count is already approaching very close to 2,000,000. That's 2 _million_ words. And that's not including all of the magazines. Just a dozen all new collections.

Since the bulk of original, non-genre stories appears in the university quarterlies and the like, how many of them do you think you'd have to read to equal 2,000,000 words? And then extrapolate that number out, remembering that it came from reading only 12 genre collections in the first _half_ of this year, and that these 12 collections are only a fraction of the year end total. Whew. :-)

So, yeah, I'll stand by my claim that SF/F/H (YA short fiction included) publishes more original short fiction than mainstream/non-genre, romance, and mystery combined. If proven in error I will apologize.

One caveat. If you want to include mainstream quarterlies or "journals" I think we must eliminate all those not paying at least 1 cent/wd. If you do want these included, and wish to count mainstream/non-genre publications paying only in contributor copies, then it's fair to include SF/F/H fanzines devoted to short fiction as well.

If you'd rather not go by total word count, then by what measure should output be judged?
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:46 am:   

Simply go here and start looking:

http://browse.barnesandnoble.com/browse/nav.asp?No=0&z=y&N=347428&Ne=347428&Ns=P UBDATE&Nso=1&visgrp=fiction&sid=65213F09810C&act=M9

"How many all new mainstream collections appear every year (not magazines, but books)? By far, SF/F/H leads the pack."

This is yet one of many assertions that you make without providing evidence.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:52 am:   

PM: You've provided no evidence of your assertion (and frankly, I don't know what you ARE asserting).

Just looking at the first page I can see that six of the ten listed are genre.
One is an audio reissue of a book that came out several years ago.
One will probably not be published in 07 (and possibly never)
And two are reprints.

So you can't tell much from that unless YOU would like to go through the 2,583 titles listed. I won't--I've already shown you how many genre anthos I read in 2006.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 10:58 am:   

As I mentioned in a prior post there were 243 total anthologies listed for 2007.

Even if only 30% of them are actually fiction anthos that still matches up.

And I'd count the erotic/sex anthos as fiction which raises the number even higher.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:00 am:   

And by the way, after the overwhelming abundance of sf/f/h anthologies in that B&N list are lots of erotica--which also is not considered mainstream.

So if you go by original anthologies, I'd guess (and remember this is just a guess) that there are many more new sf/f/h/m/erotica stories being published annually than mainstream. If someone with any knowledge of how to judge the anthos listed wishes to go through the B&N listings, be my guest (I did check the second page of listings and one antho is listed at least twice and maybe more often).
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:03 am:   

PM: We're talking "mainstream" vs "genre" --are you now changing the rules? Excuse me, but erotic/sex anthologies are in no way considered mainstream. And even going by what you're saying (which is becoming more and more confused/confusing) if 30% is "fiction" aka "mainstream" then that would leave 60% genre which gives genre the overwhelming number.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:10 am:   

Also, it's not 243 according to that list on BN.COM. It's about 212 that are listed from January 07-November 07--of course it's possible that another thirty will be published in December but it's highly unlikely (I do know of one--my own that comes out in Dec).
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:19 am:   

I agree with you that quite a bit of it is erotica.

I'd say erotica is fiction.

Is it "mainstream"? No. But then neither are a number of titles listed in your genre list.

If mainstream means being on a bookshelf at a Borders I'd say that I see a far greater number of 'mainstream' anthologies than genre ones. Now Star Wars/Star Trek books is completely different.

The argument has gone through a number of revisions that I didn't initiate.

Now we're at number of original anthologies. I'd suggest that the overwhelming number of anthologies contain one or more reprints.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:23 am:   

"It's about 212 that are listed from January 07-November 07--of course it's possible that another thirty will be published in December but it's highly unlikely"

Breaks down to an average of 21.2 per month with approxiamately two months left in the year.

But that's not what I was thinking when I came up with 243. If I misadded it was unintentional.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:33 am:   

As I'm digging through the BN list, yes if one drops out the erotic/sex anthologies and the reprints it would appear that there are more genre anthologies in 2007.

But the original assertion was that the combination of magazine/book genre collections both outnumbered and outsold fiction magazine/book collections.

I don't agree with that assertion.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 11:38 am:   

PM: "Now we're at number of original anthologies. I'd suggest that the overwhelming number of anthologies contain one or more reprints."

We're talking _original_ collections, PM. All new stuff. Like FAST FORWARD 1, THE SOLARIS BOOK OF NEW SCIENCE FICTION 1, THE NEW SPACE OPERA, WIZARDS, etc.

Not reprint anthos like Year's Bests or single author collections featuring all reprints (though on occasion there is an original story in them).

We're talking new stuff, original stories.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 12:01 pm:   

Agreed.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 12:10 pm:   

PM: "But the original assertion was that the combination of magazine/book genre collections both outnumbered and outsold fiction magazine/book collections. I don't agree with that assertion."

Here's what I said in my original post upstream:

"SF/F, on the other hand, is the largest selling venue for short stories (of ANY kind) in America."

"Largest selling venue" also means "market." It publishes more words in short story format, (online and in print--Baen's Universe alone runs something like 150,000+ words of fiction per issue, 6 times/yr.) and its magazines and original collections outsell mainstream original short story markets in the aggregate.

Again, if proven wrong I will humbly apologize.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 12:22 pm:   

As I posted earlier the circulation of Granta is around 80k. The big three combined are less than 50k.

Short stories or short fiction? If you're going to only count short stories then your numbers are going to get hammered.

Literary magazines are heavy into short stories rather than say novellas.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 12:36 pm:   

PM, by "short story" I of course mean short fiction. Short story, novelette, novella. Anything short of novel length.

Is Granta a non-genre fiction magazine, or a magazine that runs one or two stories per issue? Just asking, as I'm unfamiliar with it. Regardless of the answer, it wouldn't prove anything except that its circulation is roughly equivalent to the Big Three. Why not throw in RoF while you're at it? Still wouldn't prove anything in re the overall question.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 01:15 pm:   

Ellen,

The original argument was not about mainstream vs. genre, but SF vs. everything else. Or as Dave put it, "Doesn't matter how you slice it, the SF/F genre (magazines and new collections) publishes more short fiction per year than any genre or non-genre form--combined." (Emphasis mine.)

The discussion has so far ignored one of the principal venues for mainstream short stories, which is single-author collections. Of the four I can reach without getting up from my desk, Officer Friendly, by Lewis Robinson, contains 11 stories, all original to the volume; Shakespeare's Kitchen, by Lore Segal, contains six new stories and six reprinted from The New Yorker; God Is Dead, by Ron Currie, contains six originals out of ten; and Etgar Keret's The Nimrod Flipout contains 30 (count 'em) 30 stories previously unpublished in America.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 01:29 pm:   

Dave,

Granta publishes fiction, nonfiction, and photojournalism. Occasionally they do an all-fiction issue, as with the current number, which is devoted to "Best of Young American Novelists" and contains 21 new stories, one of them by recent Nebula nominee Kevin Brockmeier.

I'm surprised you haven't seen the magazine. It's the size of a trade paperback and most of the chain bookstores tend to stock in the same area as the SF digests. (I can also imagine your snorts of indignation should Christopher Hitchens mention, in the course of pontificating about science fiction, that he had never heard of Asimov's.)
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 01:33 pm:   

S. Hamm:"The discussion has so far ignored one of the principal venues for mainstream short stories, which is single-author collections. Of the four I can reach without getting up from my desk, Officer Friendly, by Lewis Robinson, contains 11 stories, all original to the volume; Shakespeare's Kitchen, by Lore Segal, contains six new stories and six reprinted from The New Yorker; God Is Dead, by Ron Currie, contains six originals out of ten; and Etgar Keret's The Nimrod Flipout contains 30 (count 'em) 30 stories previously unpublished in America."

By all means, count them (unless they're vanity published).

SF/F has plenty of these examples too. Just from looking at the shelf across the way, I see there's original work in both reprint collections by Ellen Klages (Portable Childhoods) and Susan Palwick's reprint collection (The Fate of Mice). Golden Gryphon's excellent single author reprint collections also include a new story from time to time, and they're not unique in running at least one original story in a single author reprint collection. Tachyon has been known to do it, and I know there are others. Including a previously unpublished story (sometimes more than one) in an otherwise single author reprint collection is to encourage buyers who may have read the reprints in the magazines and who are completists, to buy the book. SF/F does this all the time. Just sayin'.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 01:42 pm:   

Re Granta: "I'm surprised you haven't seen the magazine."

Remember that I've been el broko to the max for the last year, Sam. Lost my car, apt., blah blah blah. Have been to the local B&N exactly twice since February, only to find they didn't carry Analog and Asimov's anymore.

Is Granta primarily a fiction magazine, or is their focus elsewhere? How often do they publish? What's the average number of stories they run in each issue? Thanks in advance.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 02:52 pm:   

Granta has been around for over a quarter of a century now. You can find further details at, of all places, Granta.com.

Sorry to hear about your recent run of bad luck, but it does raise a question: if you hardly ever go to the bookstore or the newsstand, and you don't look much beyond the SF section when you do, then how can you assert with such bald authority that most of the short fiction currently being published in America is SF?

Intuition?
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 03:15 pm:   

The point I was making: in SF, the vast majority of single-author collections gather up previously published stories, with (maybe) an original or two thrown in for good measure. Outside the genre, it is not at all common to see a collection that consists largely, or even entirely, of new stuff.

And, if we count major publishers, small presses, and university presses (not, of course, vanity presses), I will gladly bet you that, even in these hard times for short fiction, non-SF collections VASTLY outnumber the SF kind.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 03:15 pm:   

So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F.

You said mainstream was dead. It's not. There are more professional markets (by Duotrope's standards -- and if you read what I wrote, I only mentioned those and not the contributor copy magazines) for mainstream than fantasy or science fiction. You're going on something Mr. Bova said, what, thirty years ago?

Genre magazines far outnumber "mainstream" magazines.

Not true, unless you count the genre contributor copy magazines.

By your logic, I can't include Strange Horizons as they publish only one story for every article, poem and four reviews.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 03:37 pm:   

Let me amend my statement:

According to Duotrope, there are 72 mainstream magazines that pay professionally, and more than 700 total. Science fiction and fantasy has about a 60:600 ratio. When you cut it that way, so to speak, mainstream has the edge.

And, against your words, you've changed the nature of the debate by suddenly discussing only anthologies. Word count, by the way, is a ludicrous comparitor: word count of science fiction and fantasy is necessarily longer (or at least nearly always) because of the world-building.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 04:08 pm:   

This thread has generated so much heated but pointless discussion among intelligent people that I'm starting to wonder if I'm in Congress and not on F&SF's little piece of the Nightshade board.

For whatever it's worth, I have become very suspicious whenever people offer generalizations about fiction like "The short story is dead" or Michael Chabon's claim that "Genre fiction stopped being fun" or Bruno Maddox proclaiming what science fiction should be or whatever. Generalizations can be useful, but rarely are they as correct as they think they are.

For what it's worth, the only people I've ever heard assert that the short story is dead have been lazy journalists and academicians who find it easy to repeat an obviously incorrect assertion.

And if I understand what Ben Bova was saying in the '70s (as quoted by Dave T.), he meant that the market for magazine fiction took a big hit in the 1950s. Which is true. But it's not the same thing as being dead.

I'm suddenly reminded of a writer's conference I did about ten years ago where a woman said, "An editor told me that there's no market for sub-Continental fiction." So I explained that this editor's statement was a shorthand way of saying that it's much harder to sell a novel featuring Pakistani or Indian characters than it is to sell a novel about characters from other cultures (African-American fiction in the Terry McMillan and E. Lynn Harris vein was "hot" at that moment). But there's always room for a book like A. Roy's THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS and you can't take these shorthand statements as being the literal gospel.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 04:46 pm:   

Sam, if you're only talking strict science fiction then yes I agree that there is more mainstream short fiction published than science fiction. If you're talking about what I consider the fantastic genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror then I disagree . Yes, there are more original mainstream collections than sf/f/h collections. But there are many more sf/f/h original anthologies than there are mainstream.

Thank you, Gordon for putting it all in perspective.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 05:57 pm:   

I emailed several editors to get their views on this discussion, and included the link to this page. I have no idea if they waded through the posts or not, but here are a couple of replies (so far):

From Lou Anders:

"I have no idea about mainstream fiction, but I can't imagine there is anywhere near our output. And once you get past McSweeney's, Ploughhshares, Tin House, Zoetrope, and a few prestigious literary reviews, I'm not sure where one goes for mainstream shorts. Heck, DAW alone puts out one or more mass-market anthologies a month! I side with you, but I'm sorry I don't have the data to back up my stance."

Lou Anders, Editorial Director
Pyr(R), an imprint of Prometheus Books

And from David G. Hartwell, editor, TOR books and the _New York Review of Science Fiction_:

"If you say genre fiction (to include mystery and SF and even Romance short
fiction), has many more paying markets and paid genre fictions far
outnumber paid mainstream fiction, then you are on extremely firm ground.
There are really a lot of non-paying fiction markets, some of them
prestigious little magazines. I used to publish one myself, and published
an early story of Nicholson Baker (two copies of the issue in payment) and
as much prestige as you can eat, as well as a lot of distinguished poets,
including W. H. Auden. On the other hand I think it is possible that
unpaid fiction may outnumber paid fiction in the US and Canada at least,
not sure about the UK and Australia. Of course there used to be many more
paying markets for mainstream fiction and now there are comparatively few."

I then asked David the following: "Would it therefore be the case that there is more original short SF/F/H published each year, than short original mysteries, romance, and short original paying mainstream/non-genre fiction combined? There isn't very much short original mystery fiction out there, is there (aside from Hitchcock's and Ellery Queen's)?"

To which he replied, "Actual figures would be hard to assemble, but that's the only way to get a real and acccurate answer. Otherwise, it is all guesswork."

I imagine he might bring the subject up with other editors at Nasfic, so we might be hearing something further, I don't know. I'm also waiting to hear from a couple of other highly knowledgable editors, who may or may not reply. We'll see. :-)

But so far at least, it is the informed _opinion_ of Lou Anders that SF/F outsells mainstream/non-genre short fiction. And it is the view of the highly knowledgable SF historian, and Sr. Editor at the largest SF publisher in the U.S., David Hartwell, that SF/F/H, mystery, and romance (genre fiction) has more paying outlets and outsells original short non-genre/mainstream fiction.

Here are a few questions to which I believe the answer is indisputable (for paying markets only):

Does SF/F/H publish more short fiction, and does it sell more than Romance? Yes.

Does SF/F/H publish more short fiction, and does it sell more than Mystery? Yes.

Does SF/F/H publish more short fiction, and does it sell more than Westerns? Yes.

Does SF/F/H publish more short fiction, and does it sell more than mainstream/non-genre? Yes.

Just to be clear, we're talking about magazines as well as original collections, print or online.

As to the first three collectively, SF/F/H wipes'em out. No contest. SF/F/H wins by a wide margin. If you add in non-genre/mainstream then the margin would decrease substantially, but I still feel that SF/F/H out does them all combined.

The only thing remaining of my original claim as to SF/F outselling romance, mysteries, and non-genre/mainstream is the word "combined." As of now, however, it's pretty much a fait accompli that original short SF/F outsells them all _individually_. Note too, and separate from the "outsells" issue, that David (on his own) buttresses the claim made by Bova, and to which I referred in my original post re mainstream fiction being dead. Bova used the word "dead" in a specific context. Hartwell echoes the exact same feeling when he says "Of course there used to be many more paying markets for mainstream fiction and now there are comparatively few." Which was Ben's point, made some 30 years ago (and which has been written about by other SF critics and historians). Good old SF keeps plugging along though, and as John W. Campbell (via an interview with Ben Bova) said of Astounding/Analog, when it was owned by a giant magazine conglomerate back in the day, when its sales figures were dwarfed by the large circulation women's magazines the publisher also owned: "Analog is a gold mine. A very small gold mine, but a gold mine. It keeps making money."

Short fiction outlets (that pay) have declined for all markets over the years (genre or not). But of all existing genres and markets today, SF/F/H is the largest, most energetic, and most viable for short fiction.

As to what Hartwell says about short SF/F/H outselling the short fiction of mysteries, romances, and the mainstream combined: "Actual figures would be hard to assemble, but that's the only way to get a real and acccurate answer. Otherwise, it is all guesswork."

If David is correct, as seems likely, then there may never be proof positive either way. Until then, all we have to go on are the respected, informed judgments of those who are in a position to offer such. I believe more such educated, informed opinion would be helpful, and of course I wouldn't be surprised if it fell out my way. If, that is, these early opinions by Lou and David are accurate indicators presaging a consensus view.

So until we get concrete numbers...
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:10 pm:   

So until we get concrete numbers...

Well, sure... it's not like we've actually given any numbers. Except, wait, we have! We keep giving you numbers, you keep, I dunno, not reading them?

The point, however, was your statement: So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F... is utterly false. But like I said, you keep changing the focus, from the above statement, to anthologies only, to which outsells which, etc. The concrete numbers are above. There are more professional markets and more total markets for mainstream then science fiction and fantasy.

The short story is not dead. Mainstream short stories are not dead, and have more venues, pro or otherwise, than science fiction and fantasy.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:16 pm:   

So Sean, you're not counting any of the original anthologies I listed.

I pointed out that of the 212 to be published in 2007 according to BN.COM there are many more sf/f/h than mainstream.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:19 pm:   

Btw, I'm not talking sales at all as I have no information on that. I'm only talking about the number of stories (including short stories, novelettes, and novellas) actually published per year.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:25 pm:   

GVG:"And if I understand what Ben Bova was saying in the '70s (as quoted by Dave T.), he meant that the market for magazine fiction took a big hit in the 1950s. Which is true. But it's not the same thing as being dead."

Ben obviously didn't mean _dead_ dead, as in there were no more mainstream short fiction outlets. He meant it metaphorically, to illustrate that its heyday was long over, and it was but a pale shadow of itself. I can't promise I'll be able to find it (unpacked boxes still in storage facility), but I'll look for that long ago issue of Tangent. If I find it I'll run the quote here for purposes of context and clarification.

From some of the reaction here, you'd think the world was coming to an end. If I'd claimed that clowns aren't funny a few here would no doubt bring out the torches and pitchforks. :-)
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:38 pm:   

Ellen,

No. I'm comparing magazines only, because I can't find an easy-to-use source for anthologies. I couldn't figure out how you narrowed bn.com's list to only 2007, or to original rather than reprint. Also, anthologies are a bit trickier for comparison, because they're usually one-shot, invite-only markets. (Though Fast Forward, Polyphony, Leviathan and others are positive exceptions).

The point, however, is not that mainstream or speculative fiction has an edge in numbers, but that the short story is alive and well in both.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:47 pm:   

Sean,
the books on PM's list at BM.COM were listed in date of publication--most recent first. All you have to do is backtrack to January 07. That's how I came up with the number.

As for original vs. reprint, as a long time reader/skimmer of anthos I can usually tell by the type of antho it is--and of course there are obvious signs like "best of year.

Whether the markets are invite only or not is irrevelant if we're just considering how MANY stories are published per year. Which of course indicates that the mainstream and the sf/f/h short story is alive and well.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:49 pm:   

"Btw, I'm not talking sales at all as I have no information on that. I'm only talking about the number of stories (including short stories, novelettes, and novellas) actually published per year."

Well I think it makes a difference what we're counting. Dave started off with just science fiction and fantasy. If one adds in horror well that's a large addition. And if one adds in mystery, romance, and westerns well that also increases the numbers.

If we're talking about units then it's not going to be difficult to add up a few mainstream magazines that publish some fiction which sell over 1.5 million issues annually.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 06:51 pm:   

"From some of the reaction here, you'd think the world was coming to an end."

After having read two million words you haven't figured that out?
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:02 pm:   

"Ben obviously didn't mean _dead_ dead, as in there were no more mainstream short fiction outlets. He meant it metaphorically, to illustrate that its heyday was long over, and it was but a pale shadow of itself."

He must have meant undead which is an easy mistake for a scientist of Bova's calibre to make being far too invested in the scientific process to take the undead seriously. Considering the way I've heard a number of people complain about modern SF sucking the life out of the genre, though, it makes me think that it might just apply to SF, too.

Now pass the jug of blood. I'm thirsty.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:04 pm:   

Sean: "The point, however, was your statement: So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F... is utterly false."

Not false _in my opinion_. The word "death" was in quotes for a reason. I was using the word in the context Bova used it, _not_ to literally mean that there wasn't any short mainstream fiction being published. Context. Here's what Bova meant, and I now mean: there used to be popular "mainstream" magazines with circulations in the hundreds of thousands, and some into the millions. When they folded so did most of the mainstream short story markets. Sure, mainstream short fiction markets exist today, but as has been stated by several others, _most_ of them only in small university quarterlies and journals with very low circulations, and many more of them do not pay the authors than do (argue the point with Hartwell, not me). If you don't like the word dead, then don't use it. Okay? Make you feel better? I choose to use the term like it's used all the time, such as in sports, for one example. If two baseball teams are vying for their division pennant, and one team goes into a slump and loses ten straight with 11 games to go, people say, "Forget it, the Yankees are dead."

"But like I said, you keep changing the focus, from the above statement, to anthologies only, to which outsells which, etc."

Never changed the focus to anthologies/collections only, Sean. Read carefully. And...there are two main issues involved here: how much is published and which outsells the other. I've been talking both main issues. You say I'm switching focus. Sheesh. :-)

"The concrete numbers are above. There are more professional markets and more total markets for mainstream then science fiction and fantasy."

Depends on how you're counting and _what_ you're counting. As I've said before, I'm talking _everything_ for SF/F/H; magazines, collections, etc. DAW alone publishes 12 collections a year, as has been pointed out several times. We're not just talking "magazines" as outlets, for heaven's sake. Were you counting all of the online paying SF/F/H zines along with the print zines? There's a good number of them.

This next may cut either way, but I also make a distinction between university quarterlies and journal type publications, and "magazines." Are there really that many mainstream/non-genre "magazines" out there, as opposed to the greater number of mainstream quarterlies/journals? Doesn't really make much difference except semantically, because we're interested in number of stories, markets, and overall sales.

And yes, as with anything in this world, there will always be exceptions, or a magazine that doesn't fit here or there. But their numbers are such as not to skew the overall results--either way.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:12 pm:   

PM: "If we're talking about units then it's not going to be difficult to add up a few mainstream magazines that publish some fiction which sell over 1.5 million issues annually."

Sigh. This has _already_ been addressed. There are magazines which happen to publish SF (like Omni used to) or mainstream (like the New Yorker) and there are SF and mainstream _magazines_. Those like the New Yorker we can count the number of stories per year, but not their sales.

Oh, and when I first used the abbreviation SF/F I was including H in the F. I always do that. When Ellen made the distinction upthread I figured I'd better clarify my abbreviation. For whatever reason I always combine H with F (as does Ellen in her Year's Best). Sorry for the confusion.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:14 pm:   

Ellen,

I'm dense. You're right, of course, and I should've been able to figure it out myself.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:30 pm:   

"Those like the New Yorker we can count the number of stories per year, but not their sales."

Well if you want to drop the number of units sold argument that's fine with me.

"For whatever reason I always combine H with F (as does Ellen in her Year's Best). Sorry for the confusion."

I'll let Ellen correct you on that :-)
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:50 pm:   

PM: "Well if you want to drop the number of units sold argument that's fine with me."

Only for magazines who happen to publish a story (SF or mainstream), and where the focus isn't on the fiction (like Omni or the New Yorker)--as _previously stated_. Not for full-fledged short fiction magazines (SF or mainstream).
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 07:59 pm:   

Last I checked the "full-fledged" magazines contained reviews, poetry, essays, cartoons. (big 3 genre magazines)

The literary magazines publish short fiction plus other material. There aren't very many 100% short fiction magazines.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:04 pm:   

A lot of the literary magazines I've seen over the years only publish fiction and poetry.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:07 pm:   

I think you'll find a review section in quite a few of them. Or at least the ones I've taken a look at...
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:23 pm:   

Even when there are reviews, they would still be considered "fiction" magazines, just as Asimov's, Analog, and F&SF are.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:31 pm:   

I'm not disagreeing with that Ellen. It's just that Dave keeps redefining and it all comes down to what we're comparing.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 08:38 pm:   

You're the one redefining this time. Dave is correct in saying a magazine like OMNI, Esquire, Playboy, or the New Yorker are not fiction magazines.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 - 09:30 pm:   

And obviously writers wrote them off because they weren't fiction magazines.

Not quite.

I would describe them as magazines that publish fiction. Not exclusively of course but they do or did publish fiction.

Next thing someone is going to suggest that they aren't even fiction markets.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:22 am:   

Sure, mainstream short fiction markets exist today, but as has been stated by several others, _most_ of them only in small university quarterlies and journals with very low circulations, and many more of them do not pay the authors than do...

Except, insert science fiction, fantasy or horror in place of mainstream and it is equally true. I'll keep pointing you to Duotrope, where you can get hard numbers broken down by genre and payscale, and you'll keep ignoring it. If you insist on including anthologies, then you damn well better give hard numbers rather than vague, meaningless generalizations.

So that, this statement:
So while the "death" of the short story in any meaningful frame of reference may be true for mainstream (i.e. non-genre) fiction, it is certainly not the case with SF/F.
continues to be false.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:25 am:   

If you're going to argue that the mainstream story is 'dead', then you've proven yourself wrong by discussing the New Yorker, Playboy, etc. The short story is quite clearly NOT dead if there is enough readership interested that it continues to be published in magazines not dedicated to fiction.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:30 am:   

Also, a number of the genre anthologies pay less than your threshold of a penny per word.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 12:10 pm:   

FWIW, this just received from Martin H. Greenberg:

"I think that you are correct, but I have no empirical data to back up the assertion--sorry."

More anecdotal support, but no hard data. But Marty is someone whose opinion I regard highly.

For those unfamiliar with Martin H. Greenberg (outside of his original DAW anthologies), I point you to his entry in the Clute/Nicholls _Encyclopedia of Science Fiction_.

Among other writings, he has edited a lot of academically oriented SF books since the '70s, as well as over 450 (probably well over 500 now) anthologies in SF, F, H, and other genres, making him the most prolific anthologist in the history of the field (and maybe anywhere). He knows the SF/F/H fields forwards and backwards, and its history. His knowledge is staggering.

He has a doctorate in Political Science (1969) and has taught at the University of Wisconsin -- Green Bay since 1975, currently holding the position of Professor of Regional Analysis, Political Science, and Literature and Language.

Like I say, not hard data, but the man's opinion is definitely not to be dismissed, or summarily discounted.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 12:53 pm:   

Note how all three of Dave's sources are careful to they have no empirical evidence. Note how Dave does not, at any point, offer his own quantitative evidence. Note how we do, but he summarily ignores it. For a guy who's a science fiction fan, he certainly manages to avoid science.
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Kevin N. Haw
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 01:52 pm:   

FYI, John Scalzi took up the issue of short fiction payscales in his blog the other day ("Making Robert Heinlein Money," http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/2007/07/31/making_robert_heinlein_money.html) and he made some interesting observations. Making adjustments for inflation, Heinlein's first sale to Astounding of $70 at a penny a word comes out to $1,034.89 today. Not bad. The same sale to Analog (appropriate, as Astounding's current incarnation and still one of the top tier markets) today would net you $420.

He makes a point that he's not bashing pay rates for short fiction (and this isn't just "biting the hand that feeds you" CYA - he admits he writes little short fiction), as the various magazines are paying what their sales can support. Instead, he tosses out the chicken and egg question of low rates as a cause or symptom of a shrinking market.

Both the post and the comments make for an interesting read, a nice counterpart to this thread.
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PM
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 02:23 pm:   

I think the big 3 genre magazines are paying what they can given their circulations.

If I recall my history correctly the magazines back in the "golden age" were a primary source for science fiction. It's an unfair comparison as now the readership has largely abandoned the magazines. (And book sales have declined as well)

Many readers would likely consider books and not magazines the primary vehicle for science fiction. Consequently, the pay rates for magazines are unable to maintain...
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 02:49 pm:   

Sean: "Note how all three of Dave's sources are careful to they have no empirical evidence. Note how Dave does not, at any point, offer his own quantitative evidence. Note how we do, but he summarily ignores it. For a guy who's a science fiction fan, he certainly manages to avoid science."

I think your evidence is incomplete at best, Sean. I haven't seen any attempt by you to offer yearly words counts or yearly sales figures from non-genre/mainstream short fiction quarterlies, journals, magazines, or original collections.

These figures would be needed for both sides of the question, and it seems unlikely there is any way to gather them all. Unless, of course, you wanted to spend a ridiculous amount of your own time in compiling _complete_ numbers for both mainstream and SF/F/H. I'm sure all of literature would be forever in your debt over such a tremendously important undertaking. :-)

In the meantime, those few who have weighed in with their knowledgable, educated opinions tend to favor my view. Doesn't prove my assertion, mind you, but still...
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 03:09 pm:   

Evidence that Dave changes his tune:

First: Doesn't matter how you slice it, the SF/F genre (magazines and new collections) publishes more short fiction per year than any genre or non-genre form--combined. It is in this sense that some can claim that the mainstream story is "dead." Still published in little quarterlies and a very few other places, but that's about it.

When presented with evidence that mainstream has more professional and more total magazine outlets, now he insists on word count (which I've said is worthless and why) and yearly sales figures.

Let me stress again: against raw numbers, he offers a smattering of opinions, and the initial opinion is out-of-date by a good thirty years for an event half a century past. The others carefully add caveats that they don't have numbers -- numbers Dave is unwilling to research. Dave is lazy, ignorant, and ill-informed (he didn't know Granta, for Christ's sakes, but wants to speak knowledgeably on mainstream). In fact, the only mainstream magazine he has any familiarity with is the New Yorker.

How sad that this is a voice Gordon chooses to give credence to.
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Nightshadebooks
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 03:34 pm:   

This argument is going where, exactly?
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 03:42 pm:   

Sean: "When presented with evidence that mainstream has more professional and more total magazine outlets, now he insists on word count (which I've said is worthless and why) and yearly sales figures. "

Not "insisting" on word counts, Sean. Just using it as yet _another possible_ method of determining how much short fiction is published per year. You could theoretically count 100 "flash" mainstream (or SF/F/H) stories with a very low word count, count for 100 short stories, and thus inflate the story count. So I don't know, I thought _maybe_ wordage might work better. Maybe, maybe not. Both systems of measurement have their flaws. Counting stories published has its flaws. Counting words has its flaws. Maybe counting both would show some interesting similarities, or perhaps divergences. I don't know. I _think_ maybe number of stories (despite its flaws) might be the way to go--assuming there would be a valid way to count them all--which now looks to be doubtful at best.

I hope I'm not misunderstanding the pull quote of yours I used above, but when you say "magazine" outlets, it seems to imply they are the only venues you're counting for both sides. My claim has always included original collections as well, because we're trying to run total short fiction numbers here, not just from magazines. Hope I've not misunderstood you.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 03:51 pm:   

"This argument is going where, exactly?"

Disappeared into the tall grass a long time ago, I'm afraid. I think it's about to wind down _very_ soon now.
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 04:15 pm:   

"Many readers would likely consider books and not magazines the primary vehicle for science fiction..."

Probably because they allow for a higher degree of consumer selectivity? You know what's there before you buy and can have some idea of personal suitability by way of reviews. When you subscribe to a magazine, you buy your ticket and rely on someone else to do the selecting for you.

Short story authors likely have an entirely different perspective about primary vehicles--particularly those who are largely unknown even among avid SF readers. For those folk, magazines are the primary vehicle. I doubt if many of their short stories would make it into book-form anthologies without the magazines; nor would many fledgling SF authors garner the public awareness needed to get some serious attention for first novels.

I'm undecided whether or not online publication could ever serve the same purpose. I'm certainly not suggesting that fine material doesn't appear online--it does; only that online publication may be far too easy, with the result that the grains of wheat get lost among the chaff.

(Sorry for drifting a bit off topic. *S*)
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PM
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 04:50 pm:   

I'll say no to "online publication could ever serve the same purpose".

As soon as comfortably viewable screens are available at affordable prices the major barrier of reader eyestrain will be resolved. The Sony Reader already is a solution but not an inexpensive one. Though if one signs up for a Sony credit card one can get one for $50 through a special promotion.

http://www.sonycard.sony.com/sonygateway/gateway.aspx?offerlink=iklipze

One can enjoy the big three genre magazines (and some of the smaller ones as well) in electronic formats.

I do agree with your point generally about short story authors having a different perspective.
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Sean Melican
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:12 pm:   

The point is that neither the mainstream nor the genre short story is dead or near-dead. I've given sufficient evidence. Whether there's more of genre or mainstream, however it is counted, is beside the point.
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Oskar Ortiz
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:48 pm:   

Nice, now this is a discussion! It warms my heart that so many of you are willing to put out so much toward defending our short realities.

Perhaps rumors of the short story dying were created by marketers?
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Oskar Ortiz
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 05:49 pm:   

Nice, now this is a discussion! It warms my heart that so many of you are willing to put out so much toward defending our short realities.

Perhaps rumors of the short story dying were created by marketers? If we think about it, which would be easier to promote, short fiction or the world shattering tome?
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GSH
Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 06:19 pm:   

"...which would be easier to promote, short fiction or the world shattering tome?"

A good question! My own guess is that the world-shattering tome is far easier to promote--or any book in general--because you've got a static product having a long duration in the marketplace. Book-form anthologies of short fiction would fall into that category.

With monthly magazines it's probably very hard to promote any specific issue due to their short shelf-life. Basically an attractive appearance of the individual issue cover and the names listed therein (thereon?) are the most effective promotion--unless maybe you can get out lots of highly positive reviews while an issue is still fresh on the sellers' shelves. Apart from that, about all you can do is general promotion of the magazine's reputation. (Except, of course, for that stunningly brilliant promotional idea that nobody's thought of yet...)
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Steven Pearce
Posted on Friday, August 03, 2007 - 09:30 am:   

I've always thought a good way to advertise short fiction would be to promote them as ideal reading for journey's - you can start and finish them in one go, rather than leave yourself hanging mid-chapter at journey's end. short stories for short journeys, novelletes for long journeys and novellas for inbetween journeys.
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des lewis
Posted on Friday, August 03, 2007 - 09:35 am:   

And novels for dying for.
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Kaza Kingsley
Posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2007 - 12:36 pm:   

I'm going to be unpopular here and say that I like writing short stories better than I like reading them! I'd rather sink into a novel, personally. That said, I do enjoy getting the Best Short Stories of .... (whatever year.) It was great to read parts of the Best of the Century one that was out a few years ago for the 1900s.
Kaza Kingsley
Author of the Erec Rex series
http://www.erecrex.com
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GSH
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 10:41 am:   

An interesting sidenote: The monthly Chinese scifi magazine Science Fiction World has a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue, with an estimated 3-5 readers per copy. (Wikipedia) Circulation is rapidly growing as the popularity of science fiction increases. Out of curiosity I clicked on their website. The only thing I could read was an ad at the top for Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress.

Apparently the short story is alive and well in China.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 03:41 pm:   

A complete coincidence, but one of the people who responded to my free signed copies promotion (details on my site, is a US-based associate of the
editors of Science Fiction World. He asked me to send them a story. I've sent them "Mastermindless," my first submission to F&SF. Perhaps lightning will strike twice.

Matt Hughes
The Spiral Labyrinth
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GSH
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 07:37 pm:   

An interesting article on that topic, wherein one Lavie Tidhar speculates on the whys and wherefores: Science Fiction, Globalization, and the People's Republic of China

Hey! Matt Hughes is already thinking about surfing the rising Chinese scifi tsunami! *S* Let us know what happens, OK?

I wonder if F&SF has any subscribers in China?
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Lim Teng King
Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 01:22 am:   

I wonder if it's possible the decline of science fiction's popularity in the United States has at least partially to do with religion. The United States as a nation is a pretty religious country. Surveys have consistently showed that a large number of Americans believe in God and many of them hold personal creeds that are derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Science fiction on the other hand, is not only irreligious but quite a few stories have content that can offend religious sensibilities.

As a personal illustration, when I was studying engineering in the US more than 20 years ago, I was an avid SF fan, reading every copy of F&SF and Asimov's I could find in the local bookstores. During the long breaks, I would make the long trek on foot to the mall to buy a pile of SF novels. The only things I read were my textbooks, SF, fitness magazines and... the Bible.

Returning to Malaysia on graduation and starting my career, I was dismayed to find I could no longer buy F&SF and Asimov's. But fortunately, there was always a good supply of SF novels and anthologies to be found.

However after almost a decade of SF I found the rather constant barrage of anti-Christian messages to be increasingly intolerable. I recall putting aside one of Gardner Dozois's Best Ofs in a state of offended stupor. So in my early 30s, I bade farewell to the genre and shifted my reading allegiance to literature, in particular Victorian novels which I knew would be much friendlier to my faith.

Now in my mid-40s, I'm back. Hopefully, much older and more mature, I shall be able to shake off the bits that are offensive and enjoy once again the mind-blowing adventures not to be found in any other genre.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 06:16 am:   

We have a handful of subscribers in Hong Kong but none in China.
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - 06:21 am:   

Lim Teng King---

Do you remember any examples of anti-Christian messages? I can remember publishing one such story by James Morrow and some other stories with implied criticisms of the Catholic Church (like M. Rickert's "The Harrowing") but a constant barrage? What comprised that barrage? The only thing I can recall is that there was a period in the early 1990s when it seemed like writers were frequently using greedy evangelists as their villains.
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Lim Teng King
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 06:21 am:   

I was referring to stories I read in the 80s and early 90s but since I threw away all my old SF novels and magazines when I switched genre, I wouldn't want to try to call back to memory any of them as I would just end up misquoting.

Have you read Chuck Palahniuk's "Hot Potting"? I would list this as a recent example of a story that can give offence, where a Christian is caricatured in the worst possible light and meets his (just?) demise in the worst possible way. I read it in Ellen Datlow's 2006 Year's Best.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 08:02 am:   

If the majority of people as you say are religious then the majority of bad guys in stories should be religious, on probability, if you are writing stories in similar to reality type settings. If that is the case, most people that die, get murdered, beaten up, kidnapped by aliens, or transported to elf worlds also should be.

If you are claiming that the religious (or some group such as Christians) should be immune from such characterisation or criticism it is quite ludicrous, especially given real life events.

I have read a few thousand stories this year, and the constant barrage of which you speak just flat out does not exist.

Lack of set promotion in most stories of your particular viewpoint in the way you prefer or desire is in no way the same thing as opposition. Neither is not making all the religious types fine, upstanding citizens who never do anything wrong, bad, evil or criminal.

You name one example, ok, I can name multiple for example C. S. Lewis SF books that beat you over the head with particular Christian dogma.

A few examples does not make a general case for this being the situation in most books, however.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 08:21 am:   

First of all, at least two other people (and one dog) also meet horrible deaths in "Hotpotting" before Olsen Read even comes into the picture. Secondly, in horror stories, people usually suffer horribly (either psychologically, physically, emotionally, or all three) and guess what? Most of them are not identified as Christian.
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Bob Urell
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 08:42 am:   

"Surveys have consistently showed that a large number of Americans believe in God"

And yet, one never sees a church-related traffic jam on Sunday....

Christianity is more akin to an ethnic ideology than an actual practice with the (dubious) 75% of Americans who claim the appellation. Besides the fact that your bucket holds no water, it's a moot point in praxis. America isn't a particularly religious country, it's a prurient one.
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 11:45 am:   

"And yet, one never sees a church-related traffic jam on Sunday..."

As Dr. Sagan said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." What would a late-sleeping, paganish fellow such as myself know of Sunday morning church traffic?

Perceptions of what's irreligious apparently shift radically with a lot of people at the point they're "born again". That happened with a close friend of mine, whose church I suppose would be classified as evangelical. He's a highly intelligent, broadly-read guy; time was when we had a lot of wide-ranging philosophical discussions. Once he'd had his ephiphany, though, all that changed. His new belief became his baseline. That was the end of our discussions. My own non-Christian perspective had become an open challenge; apparently his contract had an exclusivity clause.

Still, I can't see religion as a primary reason for a decline in the popularity of written science fiction in the United States. It's probably got a lot more to do with the fact that fewer people are reading anything. Also, many people in the United States seem to be disinclined to dream about the future. They're caught up in the distractions of the present moment as a matter of choice. They don't want to think about the future, because their thoughts of the future are filled with vague foreboding.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 01:41 pm:   

They don't want to think about the future, because their thoughts of the future are filled with vague foreboding.

Fifty years ago, there was a reasonable chance that the near future would be a radioactive wasteland. Yet written science fiction, including science fiction that explored that very future, was far more popular than it is today.

I think the fact that fewer Americans are reading is more likely to be part of the problem. As well, science fiction requires a certain understanding of, and an affinity for, the sciences. And whether you put it down to the latest wave of revivalism or just to a more self-assertive popular culture that does not value intellect, science is not a big draw in the US these days.

On the other hand, the Chinese are very big on science, and we've recently been advised that China's up-and-coming new sf magazine has a 300,000 circulation and probably close to a million readers. I'd be interested to know what kind of future Chinese sf fans look forward to.

Matt Hughes
The Spiral Labyrinth
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 05:45 pm:   

I have to disagree with the people in this thread who are saying that science fiction has grown less popular. If you're basing that comment on the circulation of the magazines, you're correct. But if you judge science fiction's share of the overall book market, I believe you're completely wrong. Fifty years ago, science fiction was considered "cult fiction" by publishers and typically considered one of the lower rungs on the genre ladder. If you had stopped a dozen people on the street in 1957 and told them that several of the year's bestselling novels would be sci-fi, eleven of those passers-by would probably have laughed at you.
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 06:53 pm:   

"And yet, one never sees a church-related traffic jam on Sunday...."

Yes, one does. One even sees police officers routinely dispatched to direct church-related traffic (which is perhaps a small irony for those churches that have strict views about working on Sunday).
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 06:57 pm:   

Thanks! I hadn't meant to generalize from short fiction to the entire genre. I was getting depressed because I can't write Chinese.

I won't snap out of it entirely until the trend in magazine circulation turns around. That'll probably require the appearance of inexpensive roll-up text readers or print-on-demand newsstands.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 06:59 pm:   

China's population is several times the USA population, do they only have one SF magazine? As in, there are lots of USA magazines that might add up to sales of say, 1/4 of that.

Lots of their population probably don't have access to it though, so maybe more impressive for that?
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GSH
Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 - 07:06 pm:   

I guess they've got Science Fiction World, Science Fiction King, and a relatively new entry, Science Fiction Story.
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Bob Urell
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 04:26 am:   

"Yes, one does. One even sees police officers routinely dispatched to direct church-related traffic (which is perhaps a small irony for those churches that have strict views about working on Sunday)."

I hate to bog this down with details, but we're engaged with a difference of terms. "Traffic jam," for those who've never seen rush hour in even a medium-sized city, means an hour and a half to get five miles (the average commute here in Portland). Now the Bureau of Labor pegs working folk at 146.3 million, only 48% of the whole population. If 77% of us, the 2007 statistic of Americans with Christian affiliation, and a much larger share than the workforce, were on the roads every Sunday morning, the infrastructure would flat out shut down. So no, one does not see wall-to-wall parishioners clogging America's roadways.
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 07:05 am:   

That's a convenient definition of traffic jam that eliminates most of the traffic problems in the US. I've lived in a wide range of city sizes, and although I've only had to deal with one of your traffic jams a few times in my life, that was no comfort all the other times I was measuring my progress by inches or spending more time stopped than moving.

But really, your metric is bad. It gives no thought to the geographical distribution of churches compared to that of employment, or the likely vehicle occupancy on each type of commute. If what you're wanting to demonstrate is that most of those claiming religious affiliation in the US don't attend a weekly religious service, why not just point to stats that address the question directly? I believe the number of regular attendees is currently about 20% of the population.
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Bob Urell
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 07:54 am:   

I think the measure is fairly good indirect evidence, actually, though you're right that it's not perfect. The problem with citing polls of "regular attendees" to question religious affiliation is that both statistics are derived from polling. My point is that religious affiliation statistics are way off because a sad fraction of those claiming to be Christians are really only saying that their parents were Christians, or that their neighbors are Christian. Religious affiliation in America is not nearly what it's purported to be.
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Lim Teng King
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 12:03 pm:   

Ellen, if, by pointing out that Olson Read's death was preceded by three others, you intend to prove the neutrality of the story towards Christians, I'm afraid I must say you're glossing over details. Let's look at them. Let's see how the writer "lovingly" paints a disgusting picture of poor Mr Read and intends it to be a caricature of Christians in general.

It's interesting that after the name Olson Read is introduced to the reader, the very next line occupies a whole paragraph: "Big, fat, virtuous, sin-free Olson Read". This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the story as the writer pours scorn upon the character, before gleefully killing off the character in the slowest, most painful way possible.

After that single-line paragraph which I think serves well as a sub-title, the writer establishes a connection in the mind of readers between Read and Christians in general: "Olson used to sing hymns so loud you could hear them in the dining room... reading his Bible in the almost-dark... If he joined your table in the staff break room, Olson bowed his head to his chest and said a rambling blessing over his baloney sandwich...His favorite word was 'fellowship' ". By imbuing the character with the most visible and recognisable signature traits of practising Christians, the mental link is sealed.

But that's not enough. Next we need to show how judgmental and hyprocritical Christians are: "A night when Olson walked into the pantry and found Miss Leroy kissing a bell-hop... Olson Read told them kissing was the devil's first step to fornication. With his rubbery red lips, Olson told everyone he was saving himself for marriage, but the truth was he couldn't give himself away". Ah, of course - Christians' "righteousness" has got nothing to do with devotion, obedience or piety, it's because they can get none of the action themselves.

As if all this is not enough, just in case some slow readers can't get the drift, the writer now comes out of the woodwork and makes a direct assault: "Olson watched the hot springs, the geysers and steaming mud pots, the way every Christian loves the idea of hell".

Oh wow - the level of subtlety here is breathtaking.

There's more - a lot more. There's Olson's solitary prayer meeting - and don't forget the death scene. But I'm gonna end up quoting pretty much the whole story if I continue.

Just read it for yourself. I assure you, if you have a beef with Christians, this story will be pure heaven.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 02:08 pm:   

Lim,
It's ONE story by ONE author.
I guess you missed this part of my post:
Secondly, in horror stories, people usually suffer horribly (either psychologically, physically, emotionally, or all three) and guess what? Most of them are not identified as Christian.
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Lim Teng King
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 09:23 pm:   

No, Ellen, I did not miss the second part of your post. I did not disagree with it, so I saw no need to comment on it. But like I said, in your attempt to defend Hotpotting, you conveniently skimmed over details. It's rather like saying the Ku Klux Klan should offend no one as all they really intend to do is to promote the wearing of white robes.
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Blue Tyson
Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 - 09:31 pm:   

Hey, I think you just criticised some Christians there. :-)

You aren't seriously trying to suggest there are no hypocritical or judgemental christians are you?

If you are, bringing up the KKK is not a good idea, being a prime example of such.

Or are you just suggesting no-one should write about such people?
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 07:53 am:   

You're correct. I did skim details about "Hotpotting"

Your lack of response to my other more important comment proves that you're cherry picking what I'm saying because it doesn't dovetail with your contention that Christians are picked on more than anyone else in sf/f (although of course "Hotpotting is NOT sf, it's horror).
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Michael Libling
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 08:24 am:   

I do not mean to be offensive here, though it will likely be construed as such, but what is the difference between the stories that form the foundations of religions and our contemporary stories of fantasy, science fiction and horror?
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 09:01 am:   

but what is the difference between the stories that form the foundations of religions and our contemporary stories of fantasy, science fiction and horror?

The latter are better edited.

Matt Hughes
The Spiral Labyrinth
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des lewis
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 09:09 am:   

I agree with Michael Libling's interpolation.
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GSH
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 12:12 pm:   

Yeah, as if that were a likely scenario. When have the writings of a science fiction author ever formed the basis of a religious movement?

(The needle of your irony meter should have just twitched.)
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S. Hamm
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 04:31 pm:   

ML: . . . but what is the difference between the stories that form the foundations of religions and our contemporary stories of fantasy, science fiction and horror?

I'd say the pay rates.
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Jeff Stehman
Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 - 07:39 pm:   

"The problem with citing polls of 'regular attendees' to question religious affiliation is that both statistics are derived from polling."

Polling suggests that 40% of people in the US attend church regularly. Studies that actually look at church attendance put it at the 20% I mentioned.

How did we get on this, anyway? Is there to be a funeral for short stories?
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Lim Teng King
Posted on Saturday, October 20, 2007 - 08:08 am:   

Blue Tyson, when did I ever suggest there were no hypocritical or judgmental Christians? Christian theology teaches that everyone is tainted with sin ("There is none righteous, no, not one" Rom 3:10). This why everyone without exception needs the sacrificial death of Christ to atone for their sins.

Ellen, I never said Christians were picked on more than any other groups. Don't let your passion to defend SF cause you to put words in my mouth.

As to my "cherry picking", if you had followed the way the argument developed, you would understand that the issue is not relevant. I started off by talking about how the stories I read in the 80s and early 90s offended me sufficiently to cause me to shift to the classics. When Gordon asked me to give examples, I declined because all my previous collection of SF books and magazines had been consigned to the dumpster. I knew how easy it was to misrepresent what others wrote if I just resorted to careless cross-reference and, unlike some, I take misrepresentation seriously enough to prefer the risk of weakening my stand.

Instead, I offered Gordon the worst offending story I have come across in the short period of my post-classics recreational reading. If you really need to know, there are two other stories I have found offensive during this period - but nowhere even close to Hotpotting. And of the two, one of them was written in the 90s, so it really belongs to that earlier period.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, October 20, 2007 - 11:11 am:   

Your exact words, which do indeed imply such to me.

I've been following the discussion from your comment on so I certainly do understand that by ignoring my assertion about the use of suffering, pain, or death in ALL horror you cherry picked.
Ellen

>>>>However after almost a decade of SF I found the rather constant barrage of anti-Christian messages to be increasingly intolerable. I recall putting aside one of Gardner Dozois's Best Ofs in a state of offended stupor. So in my early 30s, I bade farewell to the genre and shifted my reading allegiance to literature, in particular Victorian novels which I knew would be much friendlier to my faith.
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GSH
Posted on Saturday, October 20, 2007 - 12:59 pm:   

Putting down an entire anthology--or dropping an entire genre for years--seems to me like an over-reaction to a few individual stories. Still, I can't deny that unflattering portrayals of Christians seem to stand out more strongly these days than those that are sympathetic. Perhaps that's at the root of our friend Lim Teng King's observation.

A current example might be Connie Willis's All Seated on the Ground in the December 2007 issue of Asimov's. The buffoonish Reverend Thresher--a stock character if ever there was one--makes a stronger identity impression than does choirmaster Calvin Ledbetter--who is more central, far more admirable, and also presumably Christian.

Why should this be? Ms. Willis has shown us both sides of the coin. Do negative portrayals simply register more strongly in general? Or might it have to do with our own hypersensitization to a subset of highly politicized fundamentalists?

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